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How to Resolve Finances After A Family Death

How to Resolve Finances After A Family Death

| March 31, 2021
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How to Resolve Finances After A Family Death 


Resolving finances after the death of a family member can be an intimidating task, but it doesn’t have to be! Take on issues one at a time and know that there are resources and caring, knowledgeable people out there that can help you work through this time of transition. 


After helping many clients to complete this process, I compiled this list of ideas and common problems to help during this trying time.


 Manage Your Emotions


Don’t rush into anything, it is very common to be emotional after the loss of a family member. You are likely to make a decision that you will later regret if you act too soon. It is in your best interest to wait until you are emotionally stable to make any decisions around what to do with money and property. 


Grieving periods last different times for everyone, but it is common to want to wait a few months or even a year. 


Action step: Take time to grieve. Don’t feel you need to make any major moves or investment changes. 


Who’s In Charge


Odds are there are a few of you who are going to split up the inheritance. But only one of you can actually be in charge of settling the estate. 


If the will or trust does not specify which heir will be in charge of making the financial decisions, then it is up to you and your family to decide. 


There are many variables to consider about who should be in charge, but a good option is a person who is in close proximity to the deceased relative’s house. The home may need to be monitored, and there are many documents from nearby banks and/or employers that you will need to complete this process. 


Action step: Decide who’s in charge, a good option is a person in close proximity to the deceased person’s house. 

Multiple Copies Of Their Death Certificate


Every entity that you deal with is going to want a copy of the death certificate. So the best option is to get MANY copies of the death certificate. 


In the first place, you can get a death certificate from the funeral director or the vital statistics office. Once you have your death certificate you can make your own copies from a printer. Some companies will want original death certificates, others are ok with copies. Many will return the death certificate if requested.


Action step: Get at least three death certificates from the funeral director or the vital statistics office and make at least 8-10 copies of them. 


Find The Will or Trust


A will or trust (sometimes both) will be a guide from the decedent about how to handle their finances. You are going to need this document. 


If everything is not covered in the Will, then the court system will do the probate process to finalize the finances. If you do not have a will, then the probate process may be necessary. I recommend hiring a probate or an estate attorney to help. Many investment accounts and real estate holdings may have a written beneficiary or transfer on death instructions, these will bypass probate.


Action step: Find end of life documents including a will or trust. 


Gather Financial Documents


It’s time to track down all of the decedent’s accounts. 


Oftentimes it is best to go through the mail of the deceased person for several months to make sure there are no outstanding bills nor anything else that requires attention. The tax return can also be a good place to find out who the deceased was doing business with.


You are going to want every financial document that has the deceased person’s name on it. Some examples are: 


Examples of financial documents to gather:

  • Taxes
  • Tax returns
  • Bank accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts 
  • Any Bills (credit card, utilities, etc)
  • Mortgage and other loan statements


Many companies use electronic statement delivery these days. Because of privacy policies, accessing a deceased person’s email can be difficult. If you suspect the deceased had an account with an institution, you can call with the name, DOB, and social security to find out if there is an active account. If you are not listed as a beneficiary or identified as the trustee of the estate they will not be able to release any other information to you other than they have an account there.


Action step: Search for all financial documents that are under the deceased person’s name.


Contact The Necessary Companies And Establishments


Many companies and establishments will need to be notified of the death, and they usually want you to provide them with a death certificate. 


It is best to start by contacting the accountant, financial advisors, Social Security, pensions, and banks. Then to move on to employers, insurance companies, groups and associations they may have belonged to. 


Action step: Notify companies, associations, and groups that your loved one may have belonged to or worked with of their passing. 


Plan To File Their Tax Return


The final tax return is due on April 15th the year after your loved one passed away. To make this process easier, start collecting all the information that you will need now. Not to mention, filing these taxes can help you understand what is available to the heirs. 


Also, depending on the size of the estate, you may need to file an estate tax return. 


Action step: File a final tax return, and possibly an estate tax return. 


Contact Experts

You are probably going through some emotionally difficult times right now. 


Having the help of an expert is one of the best things you can do for yourself to make this process smooth and accurate. Feel free to email me or call us so I can help you complete this process.


Action step: Reach out to WealthGuard Advisors for any additional help.



Action Step Summary

Action step: Take time to grieve. Don’t feel you need to make any major moves or investment changes. 


Action step: Decide who’s in charge, a good option is a person in close proximity to the deceased person’s house. 


Action step: Get at least three death certificates from the funeral director or the vital statistics office and make at least 8-10 copies of them. 


Action step:Find end of life documents including a will or trust.


Action step: Search for all financial documents that are under the deceased person’s name.


Action step: Notify companies, associations, and groups that your loved one may have belonged to or worked with of their passing. 


Action step: File a final tax return, and possibly an estate tax return. 


Action step: Reach out to WealthGuard Advisors for any additional help.

This article is a publication of WealthGuard Advisors, Inc. Information presented is believed to be factual and up to date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed.  The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice.  Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.

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